UK Lifts Shale Gas Moratorium

The UK Government announced that it has lifted the moratorium on shale gas production in England. It also confirmed its support for a new oil and gas licensing round in the North Sea, expected to be launched by the North Sea Transition Authority in early October with the aim to boost domestic production.

The lifting of the moratorium is part of the UK Government’s plan to increase domestic sources of energy in light of the current energy crisis and rising prices. Recently appointed Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg explains that the move will improve energy security by enabling an all-of-the-above energy strategy:

“In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponization of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority, and – as the Prime Minister said – we are going to ensure the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040. To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production – so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.”

The UK government will now consider further applications for Hydraulic Fracturing Consent where there is local support and developers will need to have all the necessary licenses, permissions, and consents in place before operations can begin.

The decision comes alongside the publication of the British Geological scientific review into shale gas extraction commissioned in early 2022. The review concluded that making predictions about the possibilities of earthquakes remained highly complex and scientifically challenging and that further work is needed to incorporate new seismic data methods which could help manage the risk of seismic activity from hydraulic fracturing in shales. The U.S. Geological Survey has repeatedly found that hydraulic fracturing is not causing earthquakes near oil and natural gas development in the United States, and the British review acknowledges that advances in technology and tools are reducing probable risks from induced seismicity.

Today’s announcement follows new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ offering further support for households with the Energy Price Guarantee which will reduce the unit cost of electricity and gas so that consumers will save £1,000 a year. Energy bills for businesses will also be reduced for six months through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

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